Pitching and the Art of Improvisational Theatre

Experienced entrepreneurs know that nailing the pitch is essential. From slide decks to the 30-second elevator version, investment seekers have to roll prepared for obstacles, interruptions and blank stares.

A recent event, PitchingX, at the Pace Gallery Menlo Park delved deeper into the art and science of the pitch. Billed as “a performance installation and exhibition that synthesizes art, theatre and technology to unpack the emotional content of the Silicon Valley pitch,” PitchingX invited audiences to observe the inner experience of companies and investors in real-time.

Check-in statements reflecting emotional states were printed on the floor and participants moved closer to or away from each other based on their perceptions and interests. Moderators even threw in obstacles such as phone calls interrupting the pitch and having participants switch roles.

The results? Producer and investor Dr. Sunil Maulik commented, “Storytelling is essential and that’s what theatre is. This event brought together storytelling, performance art, theater and pitching–four facets of the same core concept.

Berkeley-Haas PhD student Aisling Scott is studying the role of confidence, gender and other variables in pitch outcomes. Her take on PitchingX was that, “It was a unique intersection of getting immediate feedback through both language and positioning, although it highlights the inherent difficulties in both perceiving and reacting.”

Maulik concluded, “Effective pitches are like improvisational theatre—the best performers overcome multiple obstacles while staying focused and on message.”

Art imitates life, again.